Fitness & Activity Tracker Buyers Guide

Updated July 1, 2014

You’ve heard plenty over the last few months about smartwatches, fitness trackers, and Android Wear and now you’re ready to make a purchase. Where to start? Indeed, it can be a bit confusing to figure out what device is right for you and which models will suit your needs. We’re here to help you out!

Let’s start with some basic questions to help get you going in the right direction.

What’s a fitness or activity tracker?

fitbit_zipTypically worn on the wrist, these devices will often keep track of your daily movements, calories burned, sleeping patterns, and heart rate. Other models can be attached to your belt, arm, or shoe. Some trackers may feature a display but most of these are slim devices that are not much thicker than a standard bracelet. Many activity trackers can be used independently of a smartphone and can later sync information to computers and select Bluetooth 4.0 or Bluetooth Smart Ready devices.

How do they differ from a smartwatch?

Fitness bands and activity trackers are simply just that, a way to track your biometric information. Smartwatches are more robust in nature and will often work in tandem with smartphones and separate applications.

Brief history

Fitness bands and activity trackers have been around longer than smartwatches however they’ve really taken off over the last few years. As smartphones have become more popular so have these type of devices. Popular brands in this space include Jawbone, Nike, Garmin, and Fitbit. Thanks to improvements in Bluetooth technology the new generation of trackers are compatible with a wider range of devices.samsung_gear_fit

What else?

When shopping for a fitness band or activity tracker it is important to understand compatibility. Specifically, buyers will want to consider which devices or platforms (Android, iOS) they can sync to their new wearable. Read the fine print and check to see if the model you like will work with your current setup.

Unless you know which smartphone operating system you expect to have over the next few years you may want to look for something compatible with multiple platforms. Also, pay close attention to which version of Bluetooth is needed to sync with a smartphone. Many retailers and wireless providers are now selling fitness bands and activity trackers and can answer some of your basic questions.


Some of today’s top fitness bands and activity trackers include the following: